There is a place where history intertwines with culture, winding a thin ribbon of smoke up towards the sky. The smoke comes from a pipe in which opium is smoked - a product that once made the area famous. What is this place all about? For the Golden Triangle, a mountainous region where the borders of three countries meet: Burma, Laos and Thailand. In addition, the Chinese province of Yunnan is several dozen kilometers from this place.
In the Golden Triangle, the definition of a country is not very strict, the boundaries between cultures are blurred and no one is really interested in what nationality is written in the passport. Life goes on slowly, focusing on the unhurried functioning of the coexisting clans. Day after day, week after week, year after year. They have their own rites and beliefs, their own identity and culture.
Magic of the Golden Triangle
Although the times of large-scale opium cultivation passed with the nineteenth century (the Golden Triangle was then the world's most important producer of this drug), its traces can be seen at every step. Today, Afghanistan is the production leader, but still in an area where three borders intertwine, you can learn about the history of opium production and visit the famous House of Opium museum. Thailand has dealt (at least officially) with the shameful practice, while Laos and Burma continue to be an important element of the criminal market, occupying a prominent position among drug exporters.
It may be hypocritical to some, but the country is simultaneously fighting the production and trade of opium and attracting tourists with it. House of Opium is visited by thousands of visitors each year, and the exhibits include maps of growing regions, antique tools for collecting juice from unripe poppies, and other items used in the creation of the product. There are also utensils for smoking drugs, metal weights or old scales. The souvenirs are not only the pipes that can be bought here, but also the entry tickets themselves in the form of postcards, on which you can make a stamp with the words "I am here ...".
With the current of the Mekong River
The Golden Triangle is not only poppy fields, it is also wonderful, captivating landscapes. A particularly beautiful panorama stretches from the high bank of the Mekong where the hamlets of Banphin and Sop Ruak are situated, the heart of the region. Standing at the highest point, you can admire Burma in the northwest and Laos in the east. Unfortunately, the relations between countries are not always correct, but if we manage to hit such a moment, we will not need visas to be able to visit the areas of two other countries, apart from Thailand.
The aforementioned Sop Ruak settlement offers tourists many attractions, not only the opium museum. You can get there with the help of a guide, by bus. Self-organizers can take advantage of the blue songthaews, which run approximately every 20 minutes between Mae Sai and Chiang Saen. After 3 p.m., tourists are left with tuk-tukas, as well as taxi drivers riding motorbikes. Unassertive or unfamiliar with the subject of bargaining and the applicable prices, they can overpay dearly for leaving the settlement.
Sop Ruak invites guests seeking relaxation. There are many SPA centers with qualified masseurs. There are also modern fitness centers and restaurants serving delicious dishes. In short, you can find here nourishment for body and spirit. After visiting the House of Opium, we can rest in a beautiful environment and forget about reality.
Tourists can board a speedboat and go on a trip along the shores of the Mekong . During the tour, they will see images that cannot be seen by a man who decides to explore the attractions of Thailand conservatively with his nose stuck in the guide. Among other things, their eyes will see Burmese or Lao women washing clothes in the river, men working in the field or repairing equipment. You can get the impression then that we have moved back in time by at least a hundred years. Here, however, the hands of the clock move slower, which is often difficult to comprehend for the average busy tourist from Europe.
Elephants in the Golden Triangle
Weary holidaymakers looking for a place to stay can take into account the offer of Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa . It is a resort that offers visitors not only one of 77 rooms and suites, but also a range of entertainment, including a visit to the Elephant Camp . Volunteers can bathe an elephant in the river, and travel through the jungle on its back. The center operates thanks to the support of the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, and is also co-financed by the Anantara hotel chain.
The second place worth recommending is the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle . In it you can also get to know gentle giants fanning each other with their ears. You can also take part in cooking classes for local specialties, bird watch and hike through the lush green jungle.
At the point where the borders of three countries meet, time slows down and the air is filled with vapors of the past, suspiciously smelling opium. A trip to the Golden Triangle will calm us down, bring us closer to nature and make us look differently at loud Bangkok and other bustling cities, full of busy people.
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